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Dana Wolfe Hood of DWH Designs Creates a Dynamic Custom Ducati Motorcycle

Dana Wolfe Hood and his custom Ducati build at the Artistry in Iron show at the Las Vegas Bikefest

Dana Wolfe Hood's motorcycle creations are the sum of his diverse background

To call Dana Wolfe Hood a Renaissance man is not a stretch. The owner of DWH Designs, in Fort Collins, Colorado, has a life resume that speaks to his uniquely diverse spectrum of skills and accomplishments. Hood is a multi-talented custom motorcycle builder who draws on his education, vision, artistic talent, and mechanical aptitude to turn metal into masterpieces.

Hood graduated Cum Laude from the Colorado State University School of Business with a dual concentration in Marketing and Management. Since his schedule was not quite chock-full, he minored in Journalism and Media, Fine Art, and Anthropology.

Hood created his company, DWH Designs, in a valiant attempt to synthesize all of his interests. As he puts it, “art, industrial design, mechanical engineering, and fabrication are the passions that worked, with only music falling to the wayside.” A look through the DWH Designs website will give you some indication of how well that convergence has come to fruition.

K&N caught up with Hood and his fantastic Ducati-based custom at the Artistry in Iron invitational custom bike show at the Las Vegas Bikefest. The build stood out as one of the most unique and visionary creations at the prestigious event. It may have been the K&N filter that is prominently featured on the build that first caught our eye, but the skeletal chassis bookended by massive front and rear suspension elements demand careful study. Every sinew of Hood’s handiwork exudes the builder’s artistic bent.

DWH Designs Ducati side view at the Artistry in Iron at Bikefest in Las Vegas, Nevada

A unique skeletal frame is bookended by massive suspension components

We asked Hood to talk to us about his custom build in his own words. You will see that the man is an accomplished and detailed wordsmith just as he is a master fabricator, a talented artist, a technical wizard, and an all-around impressive guy.

Dana Wolfe Hood on his Ducati Custom:

I think the bike needs a pretty decent explanation to appreciate it. All of the aspects were well thought out and actually built for a purpose. A lot of people think that it was just built from a design perspective, and it was quite the opposite. Form definitely came after function, though I knew I wanted something low and angry with flowing lines and a knife-like front end.

First off, this bike was built to tear up the streets and be ridden hard. Yes, it is a "show" or concept bike, but I designed the geometry and painted and fabricated it so it could be ridden fast on the road. It has a 2.5-gallon tank, the seat is comfortable (if you are used to dirt bikes), and the controls are simple. The exhaust is actually perfect equal lengths, it has good ground clearance, it has "effective" front and rear fenders from how I designed it, and it has high-performance front and rear suspension.

Dana Wolfe Hood's Ducati engine and K&N filter

Dana Wolfe Hood puts his trust in K&N filters

So, that out of the way, I wanted to explore the concepts of sprung and unsprung weights as well as leverage ratios and suspension kinematics. There are old adages in terms of reduction in unsprung weights in relation to performance in cars. However, those adages more directly correlate to rotational weight and suspension recovery, wear, and spring rates. I took all of this into consideration when designing this specific chassis. I wanted the bike to handle light like a dirt bike or flat tracker, but be planted to the road like a much heavier bike. The weight of the complete bike was significantly reduced in comparison to a stock Ducati M750, so I could play around with unsprung weight distribution as it relates to ride quality. I ended up increasing the unsprung weight of the front end in order to keep the already lighter front end planted.

Keep in mind that the frame is lighter than a stock monster frame, the front end is several pounds lighter than an Ohlins front end, and the swingarm is about the same weight as a stock Ducati swingarm, but doubles as a tank. To counteract the effects of increasing the unsprung weight, I decreased the leverage on the shock damper drastically. The sprung weight was reduced and the leverage decreased so much so that a mountain bike shock is used for the front suspension. As an added benefit, the shock location for the front and rear suspension are in the same location so adjustments can be done on the fly or at a quick stop with one hand. It is also beneficial to run the front and rear shocks that I chose (Fox Racing Shox Float) as they can be completely rebuilt in about 5 minutes, without nitrogen, and have infinite adjustability in terms of valving and spring rate via air pressure.

DWH Designs Ducati top view at Bikefest in Las Vegas, Nevada

A narrow backbone and low center of gravity make for a very rideable bike

I also wanted the center of gravity to be as low as possible. All the bikes that I've built have the lowest center of gravity that I can accomplish (with adequate ground clearance) as I love how it translates to traction in corners. That is why I decided to put the gas in the swingarm. This also increases the unsprung weight in the rear end, though only by a couple of pounds as the swingarm is a hybrid of sprung and unsprung weight. This permits hard acceleration without the rear tire breaking traction. I further reduced the center of gravity by restricting the suspension travel to only 2.5" in the front and about 3.25" in the rear. That allowed me to lower the bike whilst maintaining an adequate clearance height so I can get over curbs and speed bumps.

You only need a few inches of suspension travel for street riding anyways and I've tuned the shocks so they have a fairly progressive rate. I further increased the progressiveness of the rear shock mechanically by creating a progressive link. The link pushes the shock from both ends and drastically changes the spring curve on the rear shock. That paired with the ability to change the volumes of the air cans in the shocks allows for infinite spring curve adjustability.

DWH Designs Ducati swingarm view at Bikefest in Las Vegas, Nevada

That fuel-carrying swingarm is part of Hood's spung vs. unsprung weight experiment

I had several drawings that explored these concepts with different motors, but I happened to find a Ducati M620 motor on Craigslist for a few hundred dollars, so picked it up and designed the concept around that specific motor. I mostly use American and Italian V-twins (though I do like several Japanese twins) and I like to show off the motors with the bikes I create, so that dictated the form of the chassis as well. I have a stockpile of drawings and concepts that I am always adding to, that challenge conventional motorcycle design. I feel there is always room for improvement from a mechanical and design perspective. So why not try? I also do a lot of the math prior to building, so it's not really as trial and error as it sounds.

The motor is actually comprised of about 6 different Ducati motors. The bottom end is from a 2000 M750. It has a bunch of random M800, 750SS, and M600 pieces in there, too. It has M800 cylinders with FBF 88mm high compression pistons. It's all topped off with 2006 M620 heads as they have a better cam and valve timing. The intake is a stainless 1 into 2 with a single custom built Lectron carb and K&N filter feeding the bike. The exhaust is an equal length stainless system I designed.

So as far as the design goes, I suppose I approach motorcycle design from a minimalist's perspective because of a couple things. First, I think that the mechanics of the motor, suspension, and chassis are the most beautiful parts of a vehicle. I dislike when people cover up all of the structural and moving parts. Furthermore, that's just additional, unneeded weight (though if it relates to aerodynamics then that's completely different).

DWH Designs Ducati froont view at Bikefest in Las Vegas, Nevada

The forks pay tribute to the girder designs that Hood has admired in the past

I additionally like to take the minimalist's approach because I am a mechanic and do all of the motor work to the bikes I build. So, in that regard, all of my frame-up builds are extremely easy to work on. I design them so at most, you only have to take one additional part off to work on something. In actuality, most of the bike can be worked on without any additional parts being taken off. As an example, you can drop the motor by removing 2 bolts, unplugging the wiring harness in 2 spots, and undoing the throttle cable and clutch. You can pull the carb by pulling the air filter, then loosening the boot clamps. You can access all electronics and relays by undoing one bolt on the seat pan. And that applies to every component that typically needs service on the bike.

Finally, I did look at the bike from a design perspective after I knew what I wanted to accomplish. I really always like some of the crazy girders that custom builders like Confederate, Cherry's Company, and Speed Shop Designs created. I knew that I wanted to put the fuel in the swingarm, but needed to balance it out visually with something up front. So that, combined with the need to add some additional front weight and rigidity, led to the visual weight of the front end. Plus, it added balance, repetition, and another surface that I could show off some engraving.

DWH Designs Ducati seat view at Bikefest in Las Vegas, Nevada

Hood says that the seat is actually quite comfortable

My favorite aspect of the build is actually the form and stance. It's extremely low and compact, which is exactly what I was shooting for. The front end turned out more like a knife from a side profile than I had envisioned and it visually balanced really well with the swingarm. I also really like the color case hardened, holographic frame. It was a chemical color case hardening process to raw metal, then I shot it right away with a direct-to-metal clear with holographic hurricane pearl in it. It gives the frame depth and changes completely with the ambient light. I've not seen it done before, so I thought I'd give it a go. It also ties into that bare / minimalist mentality that I have.

The hardest aspect of the build was actually multiple things. The first was timeline. I originally was building the bike for the AIMExpo show for this year. I randomly reached out to Revival about their Handbuilt show this past April and then they wanted the Ducati to be in their show. At the time, it was just a motor and a couple of bent tubes in a jig. So, I built the bike in 3 months, after work and on weekends. Then after that show, I shifted my attention to my personal bike that I had been building. Of course, I had to reach out to Artistry in Iron, because it was a goal of mine to show in it. Somehow, I was asked to come. So I rebuilt and redesigned the bike in about a month, all after work and on weekends, because it didn't turn out exactly how I wanted at the Austin Handbuilt show. The paint was actually drying on the trip to the show, so no time to buff or polish.

DWH Designs Ducati frame view at the Artistry in Iron at Bikefest in Las Vegas, Nevada

Much work went into the clean bends of the frame trellace

That led to the next difficult thing - keeping my girlfriend happy - too much time in the garage. Oh, I run a company as my main job and I'm also starting a brewery, so those are time vacuums as well.

Probably the most difficult thing was the geometry and steering linkage. I designed about 7 different linkages throughout both iterations of the bike. They all worked and were designed around other proven steering linkages in trophy trucks and motorcycles, but they created feedback throughout the suspension travel that I disliked. So, after the Handbuilt Show, I redesigned the entire front end of the motorcycle. That led to the current linkage that is the best, but I'm probably going to beef up the upper linkage even further to reduce flex.

All the metal shaping was insanely difficult, too. All the metal was shaped with heat, a hammer, and a sandbag. All of the tubes were bent with a fairly basic tube bender - no machining – all handmade, literally. I'm saving up for an English Wheel and a JD2 bender, and maybe eventually a Bridgeport.

Finally, I chose K&N because they are the benchmark when it comes to air filters. The Ducati currently has a K&N air filter and a fuel pump with a fuel filter. I've always had good experiences with K&N and they have been installed in almost every vehicle I've ever owned. It doesn't hurt that they're a US company, and supporting US businesses is something I definitely value. 99.9% of the Ducati was made in USA, Germany, or Italy.


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